cover image THUNDER CREEK


Jill Gregory, . . Dell, $6.50 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-440-23732-7

A clutter of inessential characters bogs down the first few chapters of historical romance author Gregory's debut contemporary mystery, but once the action revs up, readers will gladly sit back and enjoy the journey. When Katy Templeton returns to Wyoming to reopen her grandmother's diner, she clashes with veterinarian Jackson Brent, the man she blamed for her brother's fatal accident 10 years earlier. After the double trauma of a miscarriage and divorce, Katy wants only to heal. But a list in her brother's old backpack and a sketch of a dead woman that he apparently drew on the day he died sends her in search of the truth. With Jackson's help, she uncovers clues indicating that her brother may have been murdered, though the key events that trigger her suspicion will strain readers' belief. After all, why would her brother need a to-do list to remind himself to report his discovery of a dead body? The story gains momentum midway as plausible suspects surface and someone makes an attempt on Katy's life, but the events that occur after the book's fast-moving climax feel de trop. Still, this minor flaw shouldn't lessen the enjoyment of Gregory's fans, who will be pleased by her treatment of the protagonists' relationship and drawn in by the book's cozy, small-town setting. (Aug.)